Monday, October 16, 2006

Wyatt and the 190.5

This article, first appearing here, was picked up by Front and Finish magazine. Wyatt's photo even appeared on the table of contents page. Thanks to Brenna Fender for picking up the article and using it for her excellent Sighthounds Sound Off column.

[This article and photo appeared in the November 2006 issue of Front and Finish magazine.]

The Story of Whippet Wyatt and the 190.5
John Heffernan

We rescued Whippet Wyatt when he was one year old. My wife insisted we get a dog even though I did not want one. Wyatt had many problems including separation anxiety. He is a very sensitive and anxious dog and has fear issues with other dogs. I am 47 years old and he is my first dog. I knew zero about dogs, Whippets, or dog training when we got him.

We went to a dog B&B when he was a year-and-half-old and had our first agility lesson. We took agility up when he was two. When he was two-and-a-half we started formal obedience training. He has come a long way since our first local obedience lesson when he would nervously and continuously jump up on
us or hide between our legs.

By using positive methods I read about and a lot of trial and error, we entered our first obedience match and managed to squeak by with a 173. We trained twice a day for about 15 minutes per session and went to an hour long class once a week.

At our next few attempts he started to go down during the long sit. He generally needed more proofing. I did not want going down on the sit to become a habit so I stopped competing and retrained it using cones. I was not sure I would ever be able to get past this problem and resigned myself that we might never get a CD. We kept working on Novice and I also discovered that he really enjoyed Utility and Open work, especially retrieving, jumping, and scent discrimination, so we added that for fun.

We started to compete again and we missed just one thing for a few trials. But I knew we would do pretty well if we put it all together because we would have been scoring in the 180s if we had qualified.

We went to a really nice obedience-only trial in the Worcester, Massachusetts, area. We were the first dog in the first class and it was a nice quiet area. I knew taking off that Wyatt was really paying attention. We got through all the exercises beautifully and the judge told me we had qualified so far. Wyatt had stayed with me well with minimal lagging. We got 0 points off on the stand for exam and the recall. I started to think we might even place if we could only make it through the group sits and downs.

He made it through the sit in what was the longest minute of my life. The three minute down seemed like an hour but he stayed down even though he looked around nervously and kept changing his head position. I knew we had Qed, but had we placed? I saw a couple of other really good Novice A dogs. The judge announced fourth place, and then, with a score of 190.5, Wyatt of Dodge City for our second CD leg and third place!

The high from the Q and the score lasted for quite some time. I was so proud of him and happy that he had done so well. Wyatt loves to work hard and play hard. He is the kind of dog who diverts his path going out to pee in order to go over an agility jump. He whines to start scent discrimination exercises.

Wyatt now has 16 different titles in obedience, rally, lure coursing, and agility. I still tell my wife I am just making the best of a bad situation, but she knows better.

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